Indiana Borough’s Wastewater Treatment plant is one of many treatment plants around the nation providing data to measure the spread of COVID-19. Sampling wastewater over time can provide valuable data for public health decision making, as well as:
· Measure the scope of outbreak independent of patient testing and hospital reporting, including asymptomatic individuals
· Aide decision support for official determining the timing and severity of public health interventions to mitigate the overall spread of the disease.
· Track the effectiveness of intervention policy measures and calculate the duration period of the outbreak
· Provide early warning in case of re-emergence of the novel Coronavirus.
Indiana Borough has been collaborating with Biobot Analytics – a team made up of researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard – to identify traces of COVID-19 viral RNA in local wastewater samples since April 2020.
Biobot collects samples from over 400 Wastewater Treatment Plants across the nation. The amount of viral RNA has risen substantially above the national median for the past three weeks. The latest reports have indicated:
· 8/20: 03% above national median (since June 2020)
· 8/27: 42% above national median (since June 2020)
· 9/03: 88% above national median (since June 2020)
· 9/10: 94% above national median (since June 2020)
As of September 16th, the PA Department of Health has confirmed 267 cases of COVID-19 for the 15701 Zip Code. Indiana University of Pennsylvania has confirmed 87 cases since August 15th, 2020. The current trends being seen locally are consistent with other University towns across the nation.
Research has shown that the viral RNA is in much greater amounts during the first few days after an infection. This would indicate a future increase in the number of new cases.
The best methods to limit community spread is to avoid large gatherings, washing your hands, masking-up, and practicing social distancing.